Executive Director, Médecine pour le Tiers Monde

Ka Joma touched on the history of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines, and especially the period that is covered by the two books that are being launched today and that also covers some of his own important contributions to the struggle. Moreover, he makes the bridge to the current crisis of global capitalism and contemporary local political, economic and social conditions in the Philippines. As he is already covering 45 years and spanning the whole globe, what can I add?

Maybe I could talk about my own experiences and observations with the Philippine people’s movement, to which I have been exposed for the past 20 years, nine of which I spent in the Philippines. There are numerous anecdotes, lessons learned and insights for which I am grateful to the Philippine revolutionary movement.

In fact, many times I wondered why and how the movement has been able to win the support of millions. It is through the study of its ideological principles and political basis that I was able to understand. I had the privilege to study these while in the Philippines together with people who were directly involved in the struggle. Needless to say its a privilege many activists, even with a keen interest in the struggle, are lacking. Hence many are puzzled by the strength of the Philippine revolutionary movement.

Fortunately, this is exactly what this 5-book series aims to provide: an insight in the reason why the Philippine revolutionary movement is a formidable force in the social and political fabric of the country.

If they would ask me to provide the shortest possible explanation for the movement’s success, I would refer to its sharp class analysis. You might have noticed how many times Ka Joma has referred to the “people” in his speech. It’s 27 times and remarkably more than the single reference to the Pope, for example.

A revolution is the people building their own future. That’s why, from the very start, the Philippine revolutionary movement called on intellectuals to put their skills and knowledge at the service of the workers and peasants. It is this challenge that I was confronted with while I was in the Philippines.

Every single day I was impressed by doctors, lawyers, teachers, researchers and other intellectuals who were not afraid to get their boots dirty. They went to live and work among the farmers, workers, and urban poor and helped them in their efforts to organize in order to challenge prevailing power relations. Every single day I was challenged to do the same.

I am convinced that this explains why the Philippine revolutionary movement didn’t fall prey to revisionism, reformism and opportunism. And I plugged a reference to the title of the second book here.

Maybe typhoon Haiyan, that wreaked havoc in the Philippines last month has demonstrated the current strength of the movement. Days before the first specialized international emergency team arrived, long before the US was able to showcase its sophisticated war machinery, local committees had already organized themselves to provide relief. After one week, national people’s organizations were able to dispatch medical and relief missions from Manila, Cebu and Davao. Even the international media’s obsession with spectacular interventions from abroad, couldn’t hide that local people and organizations were the true heroes. In fact, the killer typhoon merely punched in the air and left the movement intact. We were proud that our partner organizations were much more relevant for local relief and rehabilitation efforts than many international agencies that disposed of much larger budgets.

For us here in Europe, it is a source of hope.

Let’s face it, there are not too many of them these days. Here in Europe whole countries have been thrown back to the level of developing countries with soaring unemployment and poverty, and almost no sovereignty left. This year, we have awoken to the fact that almost anything we say, do or read on-line is being monitored by a foreign State’s secret services. All over Europe, civil liberties are eroding fast and the whole concept of public social services is undermined. Inequalities are growing by the day as the exploitation of the people is intensifying to the benefit of a small elite.

In fact, people should be much angrier than they are.

But then, maybe it only goes to show that we haven’t been able to find the right slogans to arouse the people. Probably we haven’t found the right methods to organize them. Undoubtedly, we still need to find the right way to mobilize them in the struggle.

That is why I think it is relevant for us to study the history of the Philippine revolutionary movement. It is not just a source of hope but also of valuable lessons. We can learn a lot from you guys.


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